Manly Men: Images of Gender in Roman Iberia

Lucy Elkerton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


The mosaics of Roman Spain constitute an exciting body of visual evidence for the provincial and imperial attitudes of this period. The myths and motifs that cover these elaborate floors draw on both Roman and Hellenistic traditions, but are also firmly connected to, and must be understood in the context of the Iberian provinces. In this paper, I propose to explore some of the examples of a this visual and material culture in this case study of Iberian mosaics. My research focuses on questions of gender identity: whether we can use the images of gods and heroes, monsters and men, to explore how the Iberian viewers constructed and understood their gender identity. How did they conceive of concepts such as masculinity and femininity through these fantastical images? This is constantly set against and interacting with a larger ‘Roman’ identity, especially in the Late Antique when the province had been part of the Empire for several centuries.
As an example, I will explore a series of hunting mosaics that are very different from the standard iconography of hunts and hunting used in other parts of the Empire, but do draw upon Hellenistic and Roman conceptions of masculinity. I will argue that this motif represents a particularly Iberian conception of Roman masculinity, that these images are a visual language that is drawn from the Late Antique koine imbued with an Iberian accent. These mosaics are instantly recognisable to us as modern scholars as ‘Roman’ and yet come with their own idiosyncrasies that often lead scholars to dismiss them as badly executed or incompetent imitations. This paper, and this researcher, will argue against that notion, and instead posit an interpretation where these mosaics are the product of a particular imaginative culture, and communicated as such to those viewers who inhabited the Roman Iberian world.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017
EventTheoretical Roman Archaeology Conference - University of Durham, Durham
Duration: 28 Mar 201731 Mar 2017


ConferenceTheoretical Roman Archaeology Conference
Abbreviated titleTRAC

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